At first glance, White House IT oversight and the fight against Ebola seem like slightly … different missions. But Steve VanRoekel, who is currently the White House chief information officer, is switching roles to bring his tech expertise to the government’s Ebola control initiatives.
VanRoekel, who worked at Microsoft for 15 years before transitioning into government work in 2009, will coordinate Ebola programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development. A White House official told Politico that VanRoekel will be a senior adviser to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
Shah says that VanRoekel has successfully worked with USAID in the past to improve efficiency. VanRoekel brings with him to USAID his extensive experience developing nascent technologies, plus familiarity with Big Data and open data. He said in a statement, “Technology is not the solution to this extremely difficult task but it will be a part of the solution and I look forward to partnering with our Federal agencies, non-profit organizations and private sector tech communities to help accelerate this effort.”
Politico points out that technology has already played a positive role in fighting the virus. The CDC has been distributing an outbreak-tracking app to field workers, and an automated data analysis tool has been helping to model and predict disease transmission. According to a new Vanity Fair piece, earlier in the outbreak the CDC “rushed to complete a computer program it had been developing to track outbreaks; the program needed to be translated into French so it could be used in Guinea.”
Deputy administrator Lisa Schlosser will become interim CIO until the Obama administration can replace VanRoekel.